|Created by||Patrick Graham|
|Written by||Patrick Graham|
|Directed by||Patrick Graham|
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||India|
|No. of episodes||3 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||45 mins|
|Original release||24 August 2018|
Ghoul is an Indian horror web television miniseries based on the Arab folklore monster ghoul, and the second Netflix original from India, after Sacred Games. The series is written and directed by Patrick Graham and jointly produced by Jason Blum, Anurag Kashyap, Ryan Turek, Vikramaditya Motwane, Michael Hogan, Kilian Kerwin, John Penotti and Suraj Gohill under their respective banners Blumhouse Productions, Phantom Films and Ivanhoe Pictures.
The story is set in India in a dystopian future where fascism is at its top, and the story's main plot is the interrogation of a dreaded terrorist Ali Saeed in a secret government internment camp that ignites a series of horrifying and supernatural events in the aftermath. Radhika Apte plays the main character Nida Rahim supported by Manav Kaul, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, S. M. Zaheer, Mahesh Balraj, Rohit Pathak and Mallhar Goenka in prominent roles.
The miniseries was conceived based on a dream Graham had seen. Originally meant to be the first of 3 films in a deal between three production houses, Netflix acquired the production in February 2018 after Graham felt that a longer format would be better and had it turned into a miniseries. The first season released to positive reviews from critics, with praise to the performances and storyline.
Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) is a newly recruited military officer who is fiercely loyal to the authoritarian regime and is ready to go to any limit to prove her faith in the existing system to cleanse the society for a better future. She is appointed at a covert military detention centre to interrogate Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj), the most dreaded terrorist who has been recently captured and brought in for interrogation. However, he turns the tables on his interrogators, exposing their most shameful secrets. Rahim comes to the conclusion that Ali Saeed is not from this world and is possessed by some supernatural entity.
- Radhika Apte as Nida Rahim
- Manav Kaul as Colonel Sunil Dacunha
- S. M. Zaheer as Shahnawaz Rahim
- Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Major Laxmi Das
- Mahesh Balraj as Ali Saeed
- Mallhar Goenka as Babloo
- Rohit Pathak as Captain Lamba
- Robin Das as Maulvi (Muslim Cleric)
Mumbai-based British filmmaker Patrick Graham, who has made few short films, saw a dream where an inmate enters a prison and manages to terrify the guards and the fellow prisoners. Graham wrote down the dream and developed it into a script. He also read several CIA documents about torture techniques used after 9/11 and at Camp X-Ray and the reports of military centres in Kashmir. He had a dream about being in an Abu Ghraib-like torture centre in Iraq. And then he thought, “‘What if an inmate came in and he was scarier than the place, scarier than the guards, scarier that the other prisoners and there’s something weird about him?” On 3 September 2014 Blumhouse Productions, Phantom Films and Ivanhoe Pictures announced a partnership deal for creating local language horror films in India. The first of three films from the partnership is Ghoul written and directed by Patrick Graham. Radhika Apte and Manav Kaul are starring in the film. Graham later felt a longer format would do more justice to the story. It was supposed to be a film and was later turned into a three episode miniseries after Netflix came on board in February 2018. Kaul called it a "blessing in disguise" as it gave them the breathing room to add a bit more backstory.
Graham said that he wanted to take a "monster from mythology that hasn't been seen before" as he felt "Zombies, vampires and werewolves have been done to death." While reading on Arabic folklore's, he came across the ghoul, which he felt "fit perfectly because of its characteristics". He said that some back story of the characters were added once the film was turned into a miniseries. The dialogues were written by Kartik Krishnan. Some scenes were filmed before Phantom Films, Blumhouse Productions and Ivanhoe Pictures began talks with Netflix. Graham said he was always fascinated by dystopian future and decided to create an "oppressive, claustrophobic story". He researched the origins of ghoul in Arabic folklore and drew on a couple of things: the Jinn mythology and how one can summon it but it may or may not be on your side, and the supernatural powers such as being able to see people's guilt and using that against them. He said that the "main bulk of the story came first, and the atmosphere we wanted to create came after." Kaul played the role of colonel Sunil Dacunha, who is a patriotic person and has a strained relationship with his family. Apte played the role of newly appointed interrogator, Nida Rahim. Apte was drawn to Rahim's belief system, the strength of her faith, and her way of thinking, which she found to be “quite the opposite of what my way of thinking is”. She also liked "her investigation into her own life".
S. M. Zaheer plays the role of Shahnawaz Rahim, who is the father of Nida Rahim. Ratnabali Bhattacharjee essays the role of Laxmi, a prejudiced interrogation officer. Principal photography began in June 2016. The series was shot in 14 hours a day for over a month in a place which Apte described as a "leaky, damp, and horrible smelling place with no sunlight". Graham wrote the script in English and had the dialogues translated to Hindi. Since he is a Britisher, Graham faced some problems while filming Ghoul, as the crew consisted of mostly Hindi speakers. He talked about the scene to actors in English and rehearsed it. He said: "I had two people sat with me at the monitors and monitor the dialogues and make sure the intonation and how things were being said sounded correct." Graham minimised the use of jump scares in the series as he felt they "diffuse tension" and so "you need to limit how often you rely on them." The cast did several one-on-one sessions and a 15-day rehearsal of scenes. Kaul did the extensive military training and also worked on how to talk, walk, hold the gun like a military personnel. Jay Oza served as the director of photography and Nitin Baid is the editor. The runtime of all three episodes is between 43–49 minutes, thus making the total runtime of the show as 2 hours and 16 minutes, essentially the length of a feature film.
|No.||Title||Directed by ||Written by ||Original release date |
|1||"Out of the Smokeless Fire"||Patrick Graham||Patrick Graham||August 24, 2018|
|The story begins in a dystopian future in India where terrorism has become widely prevalent and the country is in turmoil. The government has taken a strong stance against the uprising and has set up National Protection Squad (NPS) to curb terrorism. It has also setup numerous detention facilities across the country where people with anti-government mentalities are being "rehabilitated" for "cleansing". The government special force infiltrates one suspected terrorist hideout and captures alive the most dreaded terrorist Ali Saeed, who, before being detained, whispers something in the team leader's ears. The story then shifts one month before to Nida Rahim, a fresh NPS recruit who has a strong belief in the government policies and dreams of bringing in a better future by being a part of the system. Nida's father Shahnawaz Rahim however, shares a different opinion and is disgusted by the govt. atrocities. On her way to her training facility when Nida and her father are harassed by govt. forces, he becomes furious and tells that the govt. must pay the price for such violence against common people. Realizing the fact that her father is harnessing anti-govt mindset, Nida alarms the govt. officials and her father is taken away to one such detainment facility. One month later, Nida, who is now an interrogation specialist trainee, gets recruited by one of the detention facilities Meghdoot 31. Upon reaching there she gets introduced to her colleagues and gets a tour of the facility meeting the prisoners in course. She then gets introduced to Col. Sunil Dacunha, the head of the facility. Col. Dacunha tells her that based on her exceptional performance during training and the sacrifice she had made by tipping off against her own father, she has been recruited 2 weeks before her training completion to interrogate Ali Saeed, who has been captured and is being brought to Meghdoot 31 for questioning. The episode ends with Saeed arriving in the facility amidst heavy rain and thunderstorms.|
|2||"The Nightmares Will Begin"||Patrick Graham||Patrick Graham||August 24, 2018|
|Saeed in taken inside the detention facility where Dacunha's entire team tries to make him speak. However, Saeed doesn't utter a single word. When Laxmi tells Nida to give a try, she is unable to hit Saeed and hears him calling her 'Nidu', a pet name that Nida's father used to call her lovingly. Dacunha tells everyone to get rest for a few hours and begin interrogation again. During the break, everyone in the facility gets livid dreams which emphasize the guilt they have for things they have done in the past. Nida shoots her father in her dream and later he appears disfigured telling her that the price of wrongdoings will need to be paid. Once the interrogation resumes, Nida and 2 other veteran interrogation experts -Chaudhari and Gupta- try to break Saeed. However, soon the CCTV cameras and microphones malfunction and Saeed whispers, asking Chaudhari and Gupta as to who's plan it was to kill the Lady and her child, it leads to an argument between the two and they eventually turn against each other which leads to Gupta being stabbed by Chaudhari. Dacunha tells a shocked Nida to leave and tries to interrogate Saeed on his own. Saeed then starts to murmur something in an unknown language. Nida brings in Maulvi, another detainee, who tells her that the language Saeed is speaking is an ancient one which he doesn't recall Saeed ever learning as he had seen Saeed grow up and was quite close to him. As Dacunha questions Saeed, Saeed starts quoting Dacunha's wife and the various arguments they had which resulted in her leaving with their daughter. Angered, Dacunha electrocutes Saeed incessantly which leads to the power of the facility switching off due to a short circuit. While everyone tries to restore the power, Nida asks an unconscious Saeed about her father and encounters the Ghoul. Nida tries to tell to everyone that Saeed is not human but a Ghoul, but nobody believes her. Instead, they call for Faulad Singh, a dreaded interrogation specialist known to go to any limit to make someone talk. Later upon Nida's insistence, Maulvi tells her that Saeed is a Ghoul and that a Ghoul can be summoned by drawing a symbol with one's own blood, it can bite anyone's flesh and assume their identity. The episode ends with Faulad Singh arriving and then entering the torture chamber, Saeed is heard saying "It is about to begin".|
|3||"Reveal Their Guilt, Eat Their Flesh"||Patrick Graham||Patrick Graham||August 24, 2018|
|After Faulad Singh enters Saeed's chamber, all other personnel leave the place -leaving no one on standby- on the insistence of one of them who cites that Singh prefers to work in privacy, they leave without question as they're confident in Singh's ability. Soon after, Faulad Singh comes out and frees all the prisoners. Nida, who hid outside Saeed's chamber finds out that the Ghoul has decapitated Faulad and assumed his identity. She runs as the Ghoul chases her and is saved by the other officers. Dacunha now believes in Nida but most of the other officers - led by Laxmi- believe that Nida is a terrorist who has come with the aid of Dacunha to avenge her father's death. Nida is locked inside a room where all the other escaped prisoners are in hiding. Nida finds out from them that Ahmad, one of the prisoners, was not involved with any of the terrorist activities and was mistakenly captured. However, Chaudhari and Gupta killed Ahmad's wife and son in front of him, in a bid to make him talk, after which he became mum out of shock. Realization also dawns on Nida that the Chamber they are in is an execution chamber and the very place her father was killed. They soon realize that one of them is the Ghoul and everyone tries to escape in a panic. It is revealed that the Ghoul has assumed Maulvi's identity and attacks everyone. Everbody except Nida and Ahmad get killed and Nida gets bitten by the Ghoul. As the Ghoul takes Nida's identity and saves Ahmad, an injured Nida finds the remaining soldiers. Laxmi tries to torture Nida but gets shot and killed by Dacunha. Once everyone realises that the Ghoul exists, they all confine themselves in a room and wait for backup to arrive. But soon enough the truth is revealed to Nida that these detention facilities are actually places where people with anti-govt mindsets are tortured and killed, once information is extracted out of them. Her father was also a victim of the same and before being executed summoned the Ghoul to make his daughter realize the truth behind the Government's facade and see for herself the atrocities it commits in the name of patriotism. Dacunha also confesses to Nida that she was called for Saeed's interrogation because Saeed, before his capture, whispered Nida's name in an officer's ear (Episode 1). The Ghoul, now in the form of one of the soldiers, attacks everyone inside while Nida breaks open a window and escapes the facility along with Ahmad, only to find that the place has been surrounded by the backup team. Dacunha kills the Ghoul with a hand grenade explosion and tries to escape but Nida kills him with a shotgun as a punishment for all the crimes that he had committed over the years. Nida is taken into custody for killing her commanding officer where she reveals the truth about the detainment centre to the higher officials. But it seems that everyone is aware of this fact and it has been the modus operandi of the govt. since the beginning. As the officials mock Nida by telling her that she won't be able to fight against the entire system alone and eventually throw her into prison, it is revealed that she had kept a razor hidden inside her mouth. The episode ends with Nida preparing to make her own blood sacrifice to summon the Ghoul again.|
Marketing and release
The miniseries was released on 24 August 2018 by Netflix. They advertised by painting a ghoul symbol over already existing posters of Sacred Games in India. The series was screened on 22 August 2018 in Mumbai.
Ghoul received positive reviews from critics. The show held a 82% approval rating on the review aggregated website Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 6.0 out of 10. Sampada Sharma of The Indian Express called the series "unnerving" that "tackles social change vis a vis religion in an effective and dramatic way." Swetha Ramakrishnan of Firstpost called the series "atmospheric, partly disturbing but fully gripping." Adamya Sharma of Digit wrote: "These sort of shows demand the kind of critical thinking that audiences in India desperately need to sift invigorating content from the clutter of soap operas." Saraswati Datar of The News Minute opined, "In a global environment where regimes in India and abroad are trying to make countries 'great' again or bring back 'ache din', Ghoul sounds a warning bell of the dangerous consequences of state sponsored intolerance".
Sushant S Mohan of CNN-News18 praised Bhattacharjee and Balraj's performances and called them the "surprise package". He further called it an "innovative" series despite its predictability. Dipti Kharude of The Quint wrote: "The three-part Indian original horror miniseries may not have been successful in spinning a flawless and chilling yarn but breathes new life in the horror genre with its subversive plot." Rohan Naahar of Hindustan Times praised the series and wrote: "The elements are all there - a blazingly original idea, Jay Oza’s claustrophobic and atmospheric visuals, and a strong, simmering performance by Netflix’s favourite Indian child, Radhika Apte - but Ghoul, the show, much like its namesake demon, suffers from an identity crisis." Akhil Arora of NDTV praised Balraj's performance the pacing but felt the series is "let down by its reliance on cliched genre writing such as characters behaving stupidly for the sake of the plot or falling prey to narrative convenience towards the end to drive up the tension."
Siddhant Adlakha of IGN called it a "gloriously depraved work" and wrote: "It’s the kind of horror where security cameras and sound visualizers build to scares, rather than delivering them at a distance." Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV praised the performances of the cast and wrote that the series is "bolstered by acting of the highest quality". Kayla Kumari Upadhyay of Thrillist wrote: "[..] Ghoul pulls from Arabic folklore to craft a tense, tightly edited monster movie with a fantastic leading woman." Suhani Singh of India Today called it a "camp horror albeit not a thrilling one." Nandini Ramnath of Scroll.in felt that the "characters are as unconvincing as the treatment" and said that the series is "neither scary nor convincing". Ankur Pathak of HuffPost felt the writing was "expository" as well as the dialogues were "over-written and verbose." He however praised the background score. Alaka Sahani of The Indian Express called it "a fine example of using cross-cultural elements to aid storytelling." She further wrote: "This subversive show, can be a precursor to content that not only offer chills but also effectively deliver socially-relevant tales."
Melissa Camacho of Common Sense Media opined that the series "feels a bit uneven, with some segments focusing more on political commentary" and felt that the backstories of characters other than Nida were "rich with potential", but unexplored. She concluded, "[T]here's an interesting story here, and one that is worth the watch if you are looking for a compelling, truly scary viewing experience". Chuck Bowen of Slant Magazine felt that by converting a feature film into a miniseries, the series "constantly dips into redundant exposition, all the while eliding emotional textures that might complicate the smooth delivery of unoriginal plotting." A review carried by the IANS called it "all atmosphere, no substance". Tanul Thakur of The Wire praised the series and cited it as "cinematically rich, politically aware – that, one hopes, will set a precedent." Raja Sen wrote: "Despite compelling cinematography and very slick sound design, this is a derivative (and predictable) B-movie that has been stretched—for no reason I can think other than risking the wrath of ticket-bearing theatregoers—into a dull three-parter."
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